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Natalie Lau, BBA ’06: Creating Long-Lasting Sustainable Change at Molson Coors

By Ben Isely

Natalie Lau is harnessing the power of business to create a more sustainable future at home and on a worldwide scale as the global sustainability manager at Molson Coors Beverage Co. 

Lau plays a major role in shaping the course of Molson Coors' sustainability journey and setting a series of ambitions that will lead the company to 2025 and beyond. For example, by 2025, Molson Coors has pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 50% while producing packaging that is 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable. As people increasingly make purchases and employment decisions based on a company's social and environmental record, Lau believes these initiatives are both good for the environment and good for business.

Applying lessons from Michigan Ross

In 2006, Lau earned a BBA from the Ross School of Business, allowing her to explore interests in consumer marketing and brands while learning how to build brands that last, despite changing trends.

“I focused on marketing because it’s how businesses engage with consumers. Marketing is how we build brands that resonate, that have meaning, and that stand for something,” Lau says.

Her work at Molson Coors puts that idea into action. “From helping farmers in our supply chain use less water in their operations to partnering with organizations that are seeking to improve social equity in our hometowns, Molson Coors aims to leave a positive imprint in all the places that we operate,” she says.

Lau employs a cross-disciplinary approach encouraged at Michigan Ross to influence her work. “I work with teams across functions – supply chain, legal, operations, procurement, risk management, etc. – to tackle some of the most pressing challenges facing our world, such as climate change, plastic pollution, and water scarcity,” she says.

Addressing global environmental concerns has its own set of challenges, including managing differing expectations and agendas. “For instance,” Lau says, “various countries have different policies and timelines to reach established international commitments around issues like climate change and packaging waste.”

Lau looks to leadership skills learned at Ross to overcome such challenges: “Ross provides the tools to understand your leadership strengths and how to inspire teams. Strong leadership and the ability to influence beyond our immediate team is a skill that stemmed from my time at Ross.”

Benefits of sustainability in business

Lau uses her marketing knowledge and enthusiasm for sustainability to help build the Our Imprint sustainability strategy at Molson Coors, which she sees as a direct response to consumers, investors, employees, and other stakeholders demanding more climate-conscious brands.

“Businesses have the responsibility and accountability to their stakeholders to be positive change agents – in their own operations, across their value chain, and also in the communities that they influence. Their ability to leverage tremendous resources and influence puts them in a unique position to bring about solutions to many social and environmental challenges,” Lau says.

“It’s not enough for brands to just deliver on a trusted service or product anymore; brands must act in accordance with their consumers’ values and priorities.”

Lau sees business as the best bet to bring about change that is both immediate and long lasting. In fact, the success of businesses relies heavily on staying relevant in the short term and continuously profitable in the long term.

“While other sectors are important, businesses – if they want to survive – must move faster, be more nimble, and adapt even quicker,” she notes.

The future of sustainability

Lau’s two sons, a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old, make her work as global sustainability manager personal — a daily reminder to continue striving for an improved version of the future and to help brands become engines for good.

“Even though I’ve been in the sustainability industry for a while, my work has taken on new meaning and purpose since having my sons. I’ve been working on instilling the same values with my little ones at home,” says Lau, ensuring that the future of sustainability in business will continue with the next generation.
 
“My first son will be in first grade when Molson Coors completes its 2025 Our Imprint goals and will have a much better understanding of what mommy does and why it’s important. I’m hoping to not only build value for Molson Coors, but also build a sustainable future for my children.”
 

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Bridget Vis
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Email: visb@umich.edu